Monday, January 28, 2013

WIP Weekend

WIP stands for Work In Progess.  It's a handy phrase for the half finished projects that seem to follow around every seamstress I know.  It's a little hard to explain to non-sewers how these things come into existence, but I'll try real quick.

A lot of times I make more than one of whatever project I'm working on.  If it's quilt blocks, a few extra are nice to have on hand, in case one or two blocks don't work for whatever reason. If it's a present, like a table runner or bag, a lot of time I have enough material to make more than one, and it's just as quick to cut out double if I fold the fabric and cut them both at once.  That double though, often doesn't have the same priority as the first one. The first one might be for a birthday or holiday present, and has a deadline for completion. The second one might be for me, or as a backup gift to have ready for the next holiday or something like that, so it often languishes in the pieces form, until I get done with the high priority stuff. Sometimes I have a project that stalls because I'm missing a component, whether that's batting, or a zipper or the right color thread. 

In order to keep clutter down, I have a place dedicated to WIP's. That way they stay together, out of my way, and the amount of WIPs can be monitored. The size of my pile in the wake of Yule/birthday/wedding rushes, is a little too big. So, this weekend was dedicated to whittling that down a bit.

 I finished up the last of the cute mug rugs that I made for Yule.  A ton of those went out in boxes as presents, but they were too cute not to make any for me. So I have a set of 4 now. Or 5.. I don't know. :-D

I also finished up one last cloth present bag.  It got cut out after the holidays, from sale fabric, but then wedding prep took over and I didn't get around to sewing the sides together.  It does still need some ribbon to go in the top as closure, but there are a few like that, and I'll buy some more ribbon next year and get all of them at once.

Finally, I completed Knitting Project #2!! A wool earwarmer. I learned how to do a bit of ribbing, and a new cast off method that works with said ribbing.  I also took the time to do a bit of embellishing, since I intentionally made the project out of a basic black wool.  Some pretty white made a nice contrast, I may yet put some more color in it. We'll see. Fits great. Feels great.  I LOVE getting this one finished and off the needles.  I was a bad girl and went ahead and started a new knitting project, flaunting my self imposed rule to only finish projects. Project #3 uses some more new stitches, YO and K2tog for you knitters out there, and a gorgeous bunch of yarn I picked up at the Des Moines Quilt Show, (2011 I think!!) and big circular needles, which is another first for me. I even made my very first yarn ball last night. Since the yarn is a hand dyed batch of fashion yarn, it was not in a ball.  This project has been waiting for so long because I didn't have the skills to take it on until now. And I didn't want to mess up my pretty (expensive) yarn with failure. I'm 3 rows into the project now, so far I think it looks like it's supposed to, but I may need to get to the 10th row or thereabouts to get a good feel for the pattern.

I almost had another finish for the weekend. I worked on a table runner from the WIP pile, and got halfway through sewing on the binding. So that one will be finished this week I'm sure.  It will look familiar to the Erwin's in the audience, since it's a matching table runner to the two I sent out as Yule presents.  This one of course is for me!  :-) No pics of this one yet, as it was still attached to the sewing machine this morning and not available for photo op.  It's super cute though, so I'll make sure to grab a shot when I finish it up.

While I'm bragging about finished projects, I didn't get a chance to Sew and Tell the Coffee Carafe Cozy that I made for Dave's birthday. We use a french press at home for our coffee brewing needs, and the only complaint is that it gets cold so fast in that glass carafe.  So I made him a cozy that velcros onto the carafe, over the metal struts and under the handle. And yes that is space invaders on the trim, the entire back side is space invaders. It's kinda reversible, and sometimes Dave puts the space invaders on the outside for fun. :-D


That's about it from me today. Anybody else get some projects finished up this weekend? You can Sew and Tell here.  The invitation is open for those of you who choose not to create with fabric/fiber. :-) We're equal opportunity crafters here.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Using Breastfeeding as a Weight Loss Mechanism

I've touted this lovely side benefit of breast feeding, to any of my girlfriends who would listen.
Apparently a couple were listening, because I've had a couple of them complain that it wasn't working!

So, here's the gist of what I'm doing when I say I use breastfeeding to help me lose the baby weight.

First off, it's not going to happen in the first month, or even the first 3 months.  That 6 week Postpartum period really is just for healing.  Some women may need even longer than that to get everything back in working order.  Joints and muscles need time to realign. Your hormones need to settle down and you need to shed all that uterine material.  None of that is conducive to weight loss efforts.  Let your body heal. Gentle walks pushing the baby, walks with the baby in a sling, these are all fine, but anything more strenuous and you risk injury.

3-6 months postpartum, at this point you can start doing longer, harder walks. And low impact workouts. I liked yoga, swimming and dancing. Choose your weapon though.  This is also when baby hits the first major growth spurt.  Ladies, you'll know it's growth spurt time when baby wants to remain latched on 24 hours a day. :-D It's frustrating, and annoying to have to devote that much time to the little imp, but if you can resist the siren call of formula "just this once" and stick with it, baby will pull a lot of calories from you, and your body will respond by breaking down the "baby weight" to keep the milk supply healthy and copious.

After the 6 month mark, I start whittling down the extra food that I had been taking in from the 3rd trimester through the first 6 months of baby. That bedtime snack, or extra dessert, one at a time I do away with them.  I do make sure I am eating enough calories that my milk supply doesn't drop, but I stop taking in 100% of the calories I need for me and baby (or 110% or whatever "eating for two" looks like for you.) If I know I need ~2000, and baby is pulling 500-750 calories.  I try to aim for the 2400-2500 range of intake.  That way my body has motivation to pull from fat stores. I also focus on keeping what I am eating super healthy.  Lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, dairy and clean protein.  That way my body doesn't have to supply calcium from my bones or anything detrimental like that. I keep on with the exercising, what I can, when baby will let me, to help muscles rebuild so they can get in on the fat burning fun.

The other thing to watch out for is overeating while baby starts weaning.  A one year old baby needs about 900 calories, but is usually eating quite the range of finger foods, and significantly less of the breast milk. So you have to be careful to whittle back your own calories as baby ramps up the self feeding. 

Take away points here: You have to be committed to more than 6 weeks of breastfeeding.  Keep adjusting your calorie intake to keep up with the changes in breastfeeding,whether that means more calories in or less, listen to your body and give it time. It took 9 months to get to the 60 or 70 pounds overweight that full term pregnancy usually entails. Give yourself the same amount of time to whittle things back down.  Round 1 took me almost a full year to get rid of. Round 2 took only 8 months, practice helps I think. (Or the lack of convenient Thai food....) :-D


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our National Ponzi Scheme

This post should be considered an open call for comments. Is there anyone that can convince me that the 401k my company signed me up for (I was out on maternity leave or it wouldn't have happened) ISN'T a giant ponzi scheme?

I'm being told that a 401k is THE BEST way to plan for my retirement.  *blink blink* Most of this is coming from the bankers who are profiting off of "managing" my money. But even my parents seem to think that a 401k is a responsible thing to do. And in their defense, the market has worked well for their parents, and it didn't completely fail for them, so they are trying to do right by me. I just can't believe that the ginormous debt the US (and many other countries) have stacked up won't come roaring back through the markets sucking the wealth right out of everything it can. As baby boomers start taking more money out of the markets than they are putting in, how is that NOT going to contract things?  And a contracting market means any money I put in will be depleted.  Sure my "Money Managers" will play some shell games and put more of "my" money into bonds or something, but those too are largely propped up by faith, faith that governments will pay the debts those bonds represent, plus interest. And when the last of that faith is pissed away by those in power, the bond markets will find themselves short of customers. Again, there goes my money, since the bonds won't be worth the paper they're printed on.

I don't own the house I live in. I don't own the land I grow my family's food on. I don't own the business that pays for the rent and clothes and food. But, some funny-money scheme that locks up my cash and feeds it into the giant national ponzi scheme, (The Stock Market is what they're calling it) is really the best use of my hard earned money? I'm not buying it.

It's not Federally Insured, it can't be, it's gamboling. I'm supposed to have faith (hmm, sounds like a religion) that the stock market is going to keep growing for the next 50 years, and trust that a crash won't happen and wipe out my "investments" completely. The whole stock market is dependent on the influx of new money, (that's where young wage earners like myself come in) in order for the Wall Street and banker types to make their millions. No where in the whole Stock Market system are there benefits for young people like me.  Not unless I've got one of those fancy computers making the fast swap deals churning through millions of short sales a day. Which I don't have. Or unless I believe that repeated invocations of "Eternal Growth" are going to somehow make that wish a reality. As my favorite Archdruid is fond of saying, "magic doesn't work that way."

Unless someone can talk me out of it, I'm going to cash out the couple of thousand that has built up in the past 9 months. Whether it's vested or not.  I'm not saying I'll turn it into gold or bury it in my super secret bunker. But I can't shake the feeling that we have more bumps ahead of us, and a thousand dollars in my savings account is going to be much more useful to me than 2 or 3 thousand in funny money locked away in some imaginary market.

Thoughts? Arguments for or against?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Family Ties

It's been a busy new year.  Mostly in a good way.

The boys vacillate between playing with all the new toys and chomping at the bit to be out of the house. 
Can we go outside now?

I was able to attend a wedding for a high school friend this past weekend.  It was across the state, in Cedar Rapids, but totally worth the drive. My parents watched Logan for me, so I could go have some adult fun. The wedding featured as one of my goals for the past few months of weight loss. I wanted to be able to grab an outfit from my "Too-small" box of storage clothing, instead of buying something new to fit my baby-weight. Total success. It feels so great to say in the first half of Jan that I've met my weight loss goals for the year.
A note about weddings, I'm not sure when the practice of abandoning the wedding so the bride/groom/entourage can go drive around in a limo and take pictures became common practice, but I have to say I hate it.  The ceremony was lovely, Dr Who was a prominent theme. :-D :-D  And afterwards the guests were invited down to the reception area, and then the wedding party disappeared for almost an hour.  I caught up with a few friends, and drank some wine, but really, would have been happier to talk to the couple that I drove 6 hours to see.  Oh well.

Mom and I got some time to chat during the weekend visit, which was nice. I mentioned that Dave and I are going to start saving soon to move in the next couple of years. Likely to Missouri. She seemed concerned about it, and then questioned me if I really thought Dave's family was going to be able to help us out more if we moved down there. Which made me chuckle a little bit. The thought that the relatives further up the tree are going to be helping us is so far from my thinking that it was funny.  I don't expect to get much more help from any of our family, from either tree. We got a bit of help with setting up cloth diaper supplies when Rowen was an imminent arrival.  And we continue to get lovely presents at holidays from most relatives, that do help in small ways. But HELP help? Nope. Not anywhere in my plans. (Just like I don't expect to receive any inheritances or property from the rapidly aging extended family.) We're headed south so WE can help THEM.  As well as get us closer to my family, again so we can help them. On one hand I feel like this isn't an uncommon thing for my generation, and on the other hand, I feel like it's a lot of weight. Family sizes are significantly smaller for my parent's generation, with 2 kids being the norm, instead of the 6-8 kids my great-grandparents enjoyed. That means the pool of cousins/siblings that I have to work with is small. It doesn't help that a sizable percentage of that small pool are addicts to drugs or alcohol or shopping. I don't mean to imply that I'm some saint either, I have my battles I fight, just like everyone else, but at least I'm supporting myself and my family and paying my bills, and the percentage of cousins/siblings that can say the same is running slightly less than 50%. It's the micro-version of what's happening on a grander scale nation-wide. How exactly my generation is going to care for our top heavy aging family trees remains to be seen.  I plan to eventually house a couple of aging family members, to care for them that way, since I don't expect to be able to pay for a care facility. Whether or not my small pool of siblings and cousins are thinking similarly, I don't know.  If they are anything like the rest of Americans I'm sure they are giving it very little thought. In some cases that's because they are busy trying to support themselves and I can understand that. In other cases though, I fear it's egotism and self absorption. Maybe some time and living will see that abate.  I can only hope.

Speaking of the aging family tree, this week also saw a proposal shot down.  I have been concerned for some time now with my great-grandparents. They live in the middle of no-where Louisiana, they are 90+ years old, and starting to slide a bit in the cognitive and physical areas.  They don't have much in the way of care. My grandparents live 2 house down, but aren't much better off physically.  And no-one in the family can seem to do anything about the situation.
No society in the world treats their elders as poorly as we do.  As long as they are fit and spry and RV-ing around the country, it's fine, but the minute they start to need care, it's either abandonment or a ticket to a facility. The good ones are of course costly, and the cheap ones don't bear thinking about.
I'm not claiming that my family has abandoned the Great-Grandparents, but why is Great-Grandma the one taking care of Great-Grandpa? Why is nobody helping them get some care? Great-Grandma is of course stubborn, and insists that she's fine. The problem is of course, that things could go from fine, to NOT FINE in a very short amount of time, and the results could be tragic.  Will probably be tragic, if the family continues to let her push away help.
I proposed that we ship my little sister down to be live-in care for them as they approach the end of life.  Yes, the sister that struggles with alcoholism.  She is the only member of the family with experience in Elder Care. She is also unique in that she has no job, no family and no pets tying her to Iowa right now.  That is due to a variety of reasons, but mostly the alcoholism.  My father of course argued that we shouldn't give her any help until she proves she's past the alcoholism. I think that's a shitty opinion. Thankfully, I'm no longer a dependent of my father, and his opinion doesn't shape how I spend my time and energy. I don't think she is going to heal faster if we give her nothing but neglect, isolation and tough love until she somehow proves herself.  I happen to think that meaningful work, and purpose, and caring for elderly loved ones could be very beneficial to her, and help her fight the battles that every recovering addict has to fight. I argued hard that it could be beneficial for everyone involved, including the extended family who might save thousands of dollars in Dr/Hospital/Care facility costs. To no avail. Great-Grandma claims she's too old to have someone move in, which is just about the most ironic thing I've heard in awhile. Grandma said she would be nervous about Melody being there, and while I can understand and sympathize, it's still disappointing. It seems like other cousins get help after help after help.  But, maybe I don't have a clear view of things from a half a continent away. Maybe things aren't that unfair.  And maybe there are plans in place to handle Great-Grandparent's decline, and it's just not being shared with those of us living in Iowa.  And maybe not.

Anyone else have bright ideas or solutions to the personal side of the baby-boomer population bulge?